June 20, 2011 – Gyumri 1 (North), Week 5

This week was intense. I guess that is how it always is. When every week is packed full of new events, the previous weeks almost fade away. I have learned a lot from the challenges we have had this week. I was talking to my companion, Elder Frye, last night when a thought came to my mind. I don’t mean to decrease the miracles or moral of the story but I feel that our work is harder than the “2000 faithful warrior’swork in the Book of Mormon. That amazing group of young men stayed true and faithful and was protected for doing so, but I feel that the fight for spiritual life is so much more intense and delicate. We have a spirit that will never die. We are dealing with the unseen things, whether we like it or not. We must learn how to live in order to rely on the Spirit, the Holy Ghost, rather than always experiencing the world with the physical senses that we rely on too much (feeling, smelling, hearing, seeing, and tasting). In order to help others build spiritual attributes, such as faith, love, gratitude, meekness we must sacrifice more to ponder, prepare, plan, study and receive help from heaven. I’m not complaining, I’m just saying it’s tough. Almost like eating a stale piece of Armenian bread… until you try it, you can’t fully understand.

Spiritual battles are very real. Satan really does exist. He is fighting against all that is good. I see too much of his work here. The reason I say this is because Satan is in the details. He works very subtlely. That is why we have been told to,” be watchful unto prayer continually, that ye may not be led away by the temptations of the devil” (Alma 34)

Our district (in other words the group of missionaries serving in this area) is amazing. We get along very well. We are supporting each other on every front and we have a sincere desire to help the people in Gyumri feel the miracle of faith and repentance. Feeling truly forgiven of our sins is possible. I have felt it and seen it. It cannot be explained except as the most exquisite and uplifting joy. Each of us hopes to bring at least one soul to feel that joy and change.

“And we have suffered all manner of afflictions, and all this, that perhaps we might be the means of saving some soul; and we supposed that our joy would be full if perhaps we could be the means of saving some.”
We truly are doing all that we can. This is a picture (see attachment) of a picture of the missionaries in Gyumri.
We had what they call a “Kef”. That means “Party” in Armenian, but for some reason it is more fun and exciting than what the average American would call a “party”. I don’t know how, but the word just has a richer meaning in Armenian.

Tomorrow is my lovable companion’s birthday. Him and I are getting along better and better every week.
Elder Frye and I found more investigators this week than I have ever found in one week. We have been making incremental, but essential changes to our missionary efforts. We made the two most key changes and by doing so the Lord led his prepared servants to his prepared children. We are teaching a family and two other individuals along with our previous week’s investigators. I don’t care where you live. The Lord IS preparing his children to experience the miracle of faith, repentance, and baptism by water and by the Holy Ghost. Our investigators have their vices, but the Lord can do anything with us if we allow him. He can make us into masterpieces. We have a lot of work ahead of us and I pray that I will be blessed with the needed guidance. I realize more and more every day how inadequate I am to preach the Gospel as Christ and his Apostles did, but God does not ask us to do anything without the resources to accomplish the task. He has given me the resources to help others perform miracles and obtain heaven’s blessings. I know that if we will just do what he asks we will see the miracles that He wants to perform in our lives.  “For behold, I am God; and I am a God of miracles; and I will show unto the worldthat I am the same yesterday, today, and forever; and I work not among the children of men save it be according to their faith.” I know that our faith is manifest 1) by our desire to follow Christ and keep His commandments 2) a diligent search and study to learn His commandments 3) making the necessary changes to keep those commandments.

Christ said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” He didn’t say “if ye love me, keep the ones that you know”, or “If ye love me, keep the ones that are convenient,” or “If you love me keep the ones that you can remember.” No. Salvation is not a hit and miss process. Following the Savior of the world is not a matter of convenience, or “self”. It is exactly the opposite. We learn to be like the Savior, the “Inconvenient Messiah“, when we do what he asks of us, despite Satan’s temptations of convenience. We learn to love others best, by selfless and difficult service. We follow Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God, by living according to every word which has proceeded forth from His mouth, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, this is my gospel; and ye know the things that ye must do in my church; for the works which ye have seen me do that shall ye also do; for that which ye have seen me do even that shall ye do;” (3 Nephi 27:21)

It is clear. If we don’t work out our own salvation, we cannot say that it was someone else’s fault. Eternity is not a small thing. Why do we think that we can do what we want and expect the rewards of heaven? The “crown of glory” is not handed to us just because Christ came to the Earth. We do not receive a month’s wages just because Christ died for us. Why would we expect something of eternal value to be fed to us?

I don’t know why exactly, but I feel that I need to say this: Please if you don’t know what God expects of you stop your busy life for one minute, no 30 minutes. Think about what you want. If you want money and food and cars and toys, continue to work towards that unstable future. But, if you want lasting happiness, the warmth of family love and inspiring results of miracles for eternity, change your priorities. I say this not because I think that my way is best but because I know that God’s way is best.
Please seek to learn the commandments of God through the words of his prophets (“Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.” Amos 3:7) and His Holy Scriptures and then keep them. If we don’t know what repentance is how can we repent? If we don’t know why Christ was baptized by John and not some other random person, how can we follow Christ’s example?

2 Nephi 31:10-12
And he said unto the children of men: Follow thou me. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, can we follow Jesus save we shall be willing to keep the commandments of the Father?
And the Father said: Repent ye, repent ye, and be baptized in the name of my Beloved Son.
And also, the voice of the Son came unto me, saying: He that is baptized in my name, to him will the Father give the Holy Ghost, like unto me; wherefore, follow me, and do the things which ye have seen me do.

With Earnestness and Love,
Elder Cook

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